It's not just terrestrial radio, an already-homogenized, boring format that works wonders for whatever ten songs are in heavy rotation. According to this post from Free Press president Craig Aaron, this is a far broader and continuing issue of media consolidation across multiple formats. And, one that is, oh so quietly, about to get a whole lot worse.
What if I told you the Obama administration's first major post-election policy move was a big, fat gift for Rupert Murdoch?
You might ask: The same Rupert Murdoch who owns Fox News?
The same Rupert Murdoch who scandalized England with phone-hacking, influence peddling and bribery?
The same Rupert Murdoch who stays up late Saturday nights pondering things on Twitter like what to do about "the Jewish-owned press"?
Murdoch already owns the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Fox News Channel, Fox movie studios, 27 local TV stations and much, much more.
Word is that Murdoch now covets the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune — the bankrupt-but-still-dominant newspapers (and websites) in the second- and third-largest media markets, where Murdoch already owns TV stations.
Under current media ownership limits, he can't buy them. It's illegal ... unless the Federal Communications Commission changes the rules.
But according to numerous reports, that's exactly what FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski plans to do. He's circulating an order at the FCC to lift the longstanding ban on one company owning both daily newspapers and TV stations in any of the 20 largest media markets.
And he wants to wrap up this massive giveaway just in time for the holidays.
Democracy Diversity Disaster
If these changes go through, Murdoch could own the Los Angeles Times, two TV stations and up to eight radio stations in L.A. alone. And he's not the only potential beneficiary: These changes could mean more channels for Comcast-NBC, more deals for Disney and more stations for Sinclair.
For anyone who actually cares about media diversity and democracy, the gutting of media ownership limits will be a complete disaster.
These rules are one of the last barriers to local media monopolies. Without them, we will lose competing voices for local news. We will see the mainstream media get even more monotone, monochrome and monotonous.
The FCC's own data show ownership of broadcast radio and television stations by women and minorities remains at abysmally low levels. Women own less than 7 percent of radio and TV stations; people of color control only 3.6 percent of TV stations and 8 percent of radio stations.
More media consolidation will push out smaller owners — who are disproportionately women and people of color. The more concentrated local media get, the harder it will be for underrepresented groups to compete.
That's why groups like the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Media Justice and the National Hispanic Media Coalition have spoken out against any further relaxation of ownership limits.
Déjà Vu All Over Again
Genachowski's proposal is essentially indistinguishable from the failed Bush administration policies that millions rallied against in 2003 and 2007. Ninety-nine percent of the public comments received by the FCC opposed lifting these rules when the Republicans tried to do it.
Genachowski's proposal is nearly identical to the one the Senate voted to overturn with a bipartisan "resolution of disapproval" back in 2008. Among the senators who co-sponsored that rebuke to runaway media concentration were Joe Biden and Barack Obama.
At the time, Obama blasted the FCC for having "failed to further the goals of diversity in the media and promote localism," saying the agency was in "no position to justify allowing for increased consolidation." Nothing has changed — except which party controls the White House.
The federal courts have repeatedly — and as recently as 2011 — struck down these same rules, noting the FCC's failure to "consider the effect of its rules on minority and female ownership." The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the FCC to study the impact of any rule changes before changing the rules. The FCC has done nothing of the kind.
When the Republicans were in power, they held at least seven public hearings on ownership rules in front of the full commission, where near-universal public opposition to these changes was evident.
Yet Genachowski himself has participated in zero public hearings on media ownership. Same goes for the two newest commissioners, Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Ajit Pai. The senior Republican, Robert McDowell, did attend hearings ... five years ago. Only Democrat Mignon Clyburn has attended a public hearing on media ownership during the Obama administration.
Yet if Genachowski gets his way, according to reports, the FCC will vote on this major overhaul "on circulation" — that is, in secret and behind closed doors — with no public participation or accountability. It's shameful.
Now You Do Something?
Genachowski's behavior is inexplicable because the clearest and easiest path on media ownership was to do nothing. After losing in court, he could have punted the issue and waited for the next review in 2014, when the diversity research could have been finished and the industry trends might have been clearer.
"Do nothing" is so ingrained at the FCC it could be the agency's motto. And yet the one time inaction is called for, Genachowski is making every effort to side with Murdoch against the masses.
We can still stop this terrible plan from moving forward. The other members of the FCC can dissent and send this thing back to the drawing board. The dozens of senators who voted against this very policy less than five years ago can speak up again. The Obama administration can think about cross-examining Rupert Murdoch instead of appeasing him.
None of that will happen unless millions of people make somenoise.
We should be breaking up these giant media conglomerates, not bolstering them. But right now we need to kill this policy for good — and remind the FCC that 99 percent of the public opposes media consolidation, no matter who's in the White House or the FCC chairman's seat.
hippydog Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Stuff like this is a tad insane..
They sneak things like this thru when the public isnt looking or focused on other things..
and another spike gets driven into our coffin.. :-(
FarePlay Wednesday, November 21, 2012
For those who don't remember, the 1996 Telecommunications Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton, was the first significant change in media ownership regulations since 1934. It radically eased media ownership and destroyed local radio, once a viable source for breaking new talent and providing some level of musical diversity.
As legend goes, some program director in Buffalo could add an artist on a hunch, the station phones would ring off the hook and in some cases it would create a national firestorm and a bona fide hit.
Now we have factories, like Clear Channel, that riped the very soul of diversity out of radio. With this bill things will get even worse, not just for diversity, but for frredom of speech through diverse viewpoints.
These changes, like the IRFA, driven by corporate lobbyists representing the interest of a few at the expense of many, seem to be coming at us faster than ever.
We better get organized or risk living in a WalMart Culture.
Sincerely, Will Buckley, founder FarePlay
Casey Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Is media consolidation good? No. But it matters less now than ever. Welcome to the internet age, where anyone can launch a radio station or a streaming tv station if they really wanted. The only road block is content aquisition, where artists are trying their damnedest to stop internet radio and large television production studios are trying to restrict access to their content.
As far as minorities and women not owning tv and radio stations. Does it really matter? As interesting as the statistic is, will the quality of radio or tv improve if the numbers doubled? The answer is pretty clearly no. A woman or minority group member is not going program a better station with better content just because they are a women or a member of a minority group. Stations are progammed with what the public wants and the quality is often dependent on how much money the station makes. Media conglomerates stations are typically worse than locally owned stations because they make decisions based entirely on revenue, but other than that you can't say a woman or minority group will do a better job or that there is unfair representation in the industry. Stations cost the lowest in history right now. There is nothing stopping these groups from buying stations.
hippydog Wednesday, November 21, 2012
judging by the last USA election, the 'powers that be' still believe that radio and TV or still the most powerful formats to reach the avg person..
The internet (while gaining ground) is still a very small part of what really moves people (otherwise Ron Paul would have been your next president as his 'internet presence' was higher then both mitts and obama during the primaries)
so ya.. it does matter.. Control of the information flow IS power.. and putting all that control in the hands of one person is VERY dangerous..
As to your other point, quality and innovation (creativity) DO GO UP when there is more competition.. this is just basic economics.
J. Alfred Proofread Tuesday, November 20, 2012
You mention Genachowski a few times without ever identifying this person.
"We will see the mainstream media get even more monotone, monochrome and monotonous."
Monotone and monotonous mean pretty much the same thing.
Casey Tuesday, November 20, 2012
He is the FCC chairman.
Brian Knight Tuesday, November 20, 2012
If terrestrial radio would agree to pay proper royalties, artists would block subscription services relegating them to talk shows and death.
If Subscription service would pay proper royalties, artists would put their music there and both could survive.
If no one pays proper royalties, like now, there won’t be a problem because there will be no new quality content and you’ll be hearing Bieber and talk only.
If royalties aren’t straightened out, laws enforced, Digital Music News will be irrelevant.
Casey Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Again, what's proper? Until artists can define this and explain wher the money will come from, they will never receive them. Spotify would love to pay you more, but then they would have to charge more. Then no one would subscribe. Then Spotify and the artists both fail and ultimately the fans lose out.
Mike E Saturday, November 24, 2012
I respect where you're going, and have worked at services offering "free" music while scrambling for a business model that will make it all work.
The fact of the matter, in any business, is that if a company can't make a model work, that's the company's problem. Pandora and Spotify going under is not songwriters' problem, just as pets did not starve to death when Pets.com went under.
Consider the possibility that Tim Westergren declaring war on songwriters is a sign that Tim is out of ideas. He can't lower costs, he can't innovate his way into profitability, and he can't come up with an alternative to the natural resource required for his business.
I'm reminded of Hostess - people decried the loss of jobs, the heinous unions, the loss of some kind of cream-filled "American Institution," but it was only in the comments sections of business sites that I saw smart people saying, "Why could they not innovate to meet the needs of new generations of consumers who haven't had a Twinkie in a decade or more?"
The problem is in the boardroom, where the big decisions are made. Instead of thinking harder, Pandora has sued the gas in the engine that makes it run.
I'm not saying it won't work, either. Songwriters have a right to get lawyers, same as Pandora. We get to watch the fireworks and live with the results.
But, to reiterate, it's Hostess' problem when Hostess goes under. Same with a band that doesn't sell records, or Pets.com, or streaming sites. The survival of any of these entities is not mandatory. Pets survived, people will continue to eat cake, and music will make it to a listener.
Thanks for shaking it up,
Jeff Robinson Tuesday, November 20, 2012
"he could have punted the issue and waited for the next review in 2014"
Not sure what this statement means. By law, the FCC rules are meant to be reviewed every two years. Obviously, that never happens.
NTC Wednesday, November 21, 2012
"99 percent of the public opposes media consolidation, no matter who's in the White House or the FCC chairman's seat."
Whether or not I agree with the arguments in this piece, I was a bit turned off by the ending statement (copied above). This statement of "fact" is misleading. Previously in the commentary, it was stated that 99% of the public comments received by the FCC were against lifting the ban. One would expect those who comment to the FCC to be self-selected and not necessarily representative of the public.
All that said, an open, healthy debate where all points of view are represented is welcome. Sadly, I think we'll see just the opposite - sessions closed to both the public and creative thought with plenty of finger pointing, animosity, and rancour.
Bryan Thursday, November 29, 2012
Paul, thanks for reminding me that your Jewish.